Whoops! I had forgotten that this website even existed. The story goes like this. I signed with TalkTalk in the 1990s because – let's face it – their prices are very competitive. Unfortunately, the company never did manage to provide a robust service to my home, so I moved my business elsewhere. In case you're wondering, one moment, my TalkTalk broadband would go like a rocket, but the next it would slump to near immobility, and I remember the tedium of waiting 20-30 minutes to send an email containing just 4 lines. (Has anyone else 'out there' had this peculiar experience?)
A web-hosting facility was part of my TalkTalk bundle, and I fully expected it to be withdrawn and this website atomised when I terminated my contract … which was back in January 2012; but, after all this time, it still is here. The other thing that astonished me was the reading on the hit counter, which today (10th June 2015) was 9,111. That's a lot of hits for a quirky website about poetry, railways, beer, and all the rest.
Let's not look a gift horse in the mouth. I have updated the Contact page with an email address that actually works in case anyone wants to contact me. I cannot guarantee a reply (not least due to work commitments, voluntary commitments and medical appointments), but I will be pleased to hear if anyone has enjoyed the poetry and thinks that I should 'e-publish' more. In passing, modern poetry publishers appear to dislike anything that exhibits the merest hint of metre and rhyme, and I suspect that much of the poetry published now appeals mainly to the world of the academic – although I suspect that there is an unfulfilled readership out there that would respond to intelligible and well crafted verse. If feedback suggests that this view is correct, I will publish more of my own work here, and even – if TalkTalk finally 'kick me out of their nest' – move this site elsewhere, even if it means paying for it.
In passing, my medical appointments should be over by the end of 2015. Right now, I am just waiting for an operation. The good news is that cancer, suspected earlier, is now regarded as a marginal risk – which is a good reason for having a celebratory pint …
Something Worth Hearing
I do not normally listen to 'The Jeremy Vine' show on BBC Radio 2 because there are times when it degenerates into a shouting match between two sets of equally unhappy people who are never going to change anything. However, I made an exception on Wednesday 10th June 2015 to listen to Johnnie Walker's contribution to Mr. Vine's occasional series, 'What Makes Us Human?' If you missed it, click the link below – the broadcast is worth hearing, especially Johnnie's sensitive and moving essay which occupies the first 4½ minutes.
Walking back to Brighton railway station a few hours later, I passed a poster which featured the face of the Dalai Lama with a quotation below: 'True religion is the kind heart'.
According to Wikipedia, 'Synchronicity is a concept created by psychiatrist Carl Jung, which holds that events are "meaningful coincidences" if they occur with no apparent causal relationship, yet seem to be meaningfully related.'
My latest book (see right), Vinter's Railway Gazetteer, was published in May 2011. If you have ever wondered what happened to all of this country's abandoned railway lines and, more specifically, which ones you can access with official blessing, then this guide is the book for you. Click here for further details.
Deposed Introduction (it used to be at the top of this page)
The main purpose of this website is to promote my books and particularly my lyrics and poems, a selection of which can be read via the links on the left of this page. Given that the Internet is notorious for plagiarism and copyright theft, I have included here only published works in which my intellectual ownership can be demonstrated in print. However, I hope that these samples may encourage you to consider buying my anthology, The Same Sun Over All (2010). Many of my poems are traditional in form since, when it works well (i.e. when rhyme and metre are not forced or contrived), the effect can be memorable. At a time when some modern poetry seems obscure and difficult, I must declare my belief that poetry should be intelligible and connect with people.
My work has been published in various books and magazines, including The Spectator and Candelabrum, the latter being responsible for five of my poems now having a place in the National Poetry Library on the South Bank. I also won The Paddon Award at the University of Exeter in 2005 with 'Fifty Years On', which can be found in the Poems section.
In 2009, my four Railway Walks books were re-published by The History Press, and details of these have been added to the Books page (see the menu links on the left). These volumes have been described as 'very models of their kind', and Railway Walks: Wales sold out within months, necessitating a further reprint. It has been described as a 'highly informative trip down memory lane'.
In May 2011, my Railway Walks books were joined by Vinter's Railway Gazetteer, which has been described as the 'antidote to Dr. Beeching'. For the sake of those who are too young to know, Dr. Beeching was the ICI chemist appointed as the first Chairman of the newly formed British Railways Board in 1961, who made himself famous (or perhaps infamous) by closing thousands of miles of track during the early to mid 1960s. This gazetteer, which has taken 27 years to compile, offers some compensation for the good doctor's trail of destruction by listing all of those former railway lines throughout the British Isles which one can now walk or cycle or, in some cases, even ride a horse over. Further details can be found by clicking the link here.
This website is designed to be viewed with the screen resolution set to 1024 x 768 pixels. The only fonts that I have used are Arial and Times New Roman. While a dull choice, this combination means that you will see each page as I designed it, rather than having the appearance altered by the font substitution that would occur had I used any rare fonts.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright holder. To put it plainly, if you want to use this material in any way, please ask – just click on Contact Me, which appears at the bottom of the menu on every page. I will not normally withhold my consent. After all, any author wants his work to circulate and be read – but I am very nervous about being ripped off and hope that I will not come to regret publishing samples of my work in this way. © Jeff Vinter, 2008-2015.
I was born in Lambeth in 1953 and moved to Sussex with my parents in 1959. I was educated at various establishments in south London, Bognor Regis, Chichester, Exeter and Winchester, the best by far being the University of Exeter (which God preserve). On leaving school in 1971, I started work at the family accounting practice in Southwark as an articled clerk, but gave this up after 15 months to train instead as a teacher of History and English – only to discover in 1976 that the government had trained so many teachers of History and English that it was virtually impossible to get a job! As a result, I re-trained as a computer programmer and spent many years working as a programmer in the commercial and banking sectors, also serving two 8½ year stints in education – first as Senior Lecturer in Programming at Chichester College and, more recently, as Head of ICT at The Weald School in Billinghurst. This school is notable for the outstanding work of its charity, Classrooms for Kenya, in which I played a part during 2009. At the end of 2010, I retired from teaching and currently am earning a living doing anything that comes to hand – book keeping, writing, developing websites, and so on – with my main work as the accountant for a multi-national payroll bureau based in Canary Wharf.
Readers sometimes wonder where my interest in railways comes from. My father certainly had a hand, for the family car was forever banished from the garage on account of the huge model railway layout which lived there, but he picked up the interest from my great-grandfather, Charlie Blake, who worked on the Metropolitan Railway and made some rudimentary track for my father's O gauge model trains in the 1930s. Like many in the post war years, my father assumed that the railways would go on forever, so it came as an unpleasant surprise when, in 1963, the infamous Beeching Report was published. As I moved into my teens, I had the gloomy experience of seeing its recommendations implemented. In practice, this meant watching a Conservative and then a Labour government close thousands of miles of railways but fail to do anything constructive with them, even though they were a national asset. This has encouraged me, since 1980, to help Railway Ramblers in promoting the re-use of some of these 'lost lines' as traffic-free walks and cycle trails. My work in this field has included five years (1996-2000) on the board of Sustrans Limited, the national path-building charity, and – since 2012 – I have been a director / trustee of Railway Paths Limited (RPL). Both of these are charities, but RPL is the lesser known, which is a shame because it does fine work in re-habilitating some of the historic railway structures and routes which British Rail had been unable to sell off by the time of railway privatisation in 1993. This disused railway property had to be kept at arm's length from the new train operating companies, which would never have agreed to assume responsibility for structures which hadn't seen a train since the 1960s!
While I have heard it said that beer is proof that God loves us, I am mindful as well of A.E. Houseman's famous lines from 'Terence, This is Stupid Stuff':
Unfortunately, given the way the world is going, a glass or two of ale seems like an increasingly good idea. I serve the cause of beer by supporting the excellent Arundel Brewery: I was their Webmaster for many years, and – although this work has now been moved in-house – I continue to serve as their Brewery Liaison Officer with Camra, the Campaign for Real Ale.
Apart from my poetry, I also write prose, mostly to do with transport history – railways predictably, and canals rather less so. From 1990 onwards, Alan Sutton published my Railway Walks series in four volumes, together with The Taff Trail Official Guidebook, which was sponsored by Esso, amongst others. In 2007, I contributed a chapter to The Book of Carhampton and Blue Anchor, published by Halsgrove, the names in the title being the two Somerset villages where I spend a lot of my spare time. In 2008-9, I prepared my four Railway Walks books for new editions which were published by The History Press between April and October 2009. Click on the book title to view the press release for Railway Walks: Wales, Railway Walks: GWR & SR, Railway Walks: LNER or Railway Walks: LMS. The updates on this occasion were limited due to my other commitments, but I updated the appendices comprehensively, especially those which list old lines that are now officially open to the public. On that subject, the collective length of 'rail trails' in the UK has more than trebled since the books were first published in 1990, and I estimate that the routes come to over 4,000 miles now. (One of these days when I have nothing better to do, I might add them all up ...)
In January 2009, I was asked to write a book to support the 'Railway Walks' series on BBC Television (see below), but had to decline due to the very short timescale involved; the task would have been impossible on top of the full-time job that I then had. However, I have other writing projects on the go for The History Press, and the first of these – Vinter's Railway Gazetteer – was published in May 2011. I will use the success (or otherwise) of this title to judge whether it is worth my while continuing with further writing projects. Lowly writers such as myself do not have the income of a Stephen King or Ian Rankin; we do not get rich from our endeavours, but write for the love of it, and the love of our subject.
Burma and Beyond
In 2010, I published Burma and Beyond by Maude Kilvington. This was an unusual departure for me but Maude was having difficulty finding a publisher for her work, which centres upon her family's flight from the Japanese Imperial Forces following their invasion of Burma in 1942. It is a well told and moving story – an eye-witness account – which deserved an airing. In an age when we have revisionist historians who claim that events such as the Holocaust never happened, survivors' tales like this deserve to be told while the survivors are still here to tell them. Copies of Burma and Beyond can be ordered by following the link here.
In 2007, I assisted Platform 14 Ltd. in making the series 'Along These Lines' for Meridian Television, while, in 2008, I assisted Skyworks Ltd. in making the series 'Railway Walks' for the BBC. These series consisted of eight and six half hour episodes respectively, all being broadcast during the course of 2008. Having appeared initially on BBC4, 'Railway Walks' was repeated on BBC2 in March and April 2009. No doubt, these programmes will be repeated again until, eventually, they arrive on the Yesterday channel. (No doubt I will see them there in years to come when I have reached my dotage and have been parked up in some rest home by my daughters.)
During the summer of 2009, I assisted with an episode in the second series of James May's 'Toy Stories', which was broadcast on Christmas Day that year. This episode involved an attempt to seize the record for the world's longest model railway from the Germans, whose record (unfortunately!) still stands at 8½ miles. James and his team laid 10 miles of track between Barnstaple and Bideford in North Devon, but had to put up with some theft and mindless vandalism, which some of the daily newspapers seized upon with relish. Notwithstanding these difficulties, it was a technical problem that ultimately defeated James and his team, for the electric motor in their OO gauge Japanese bullet train finally expired at Instow, 8 miles along the track. This was not enough to claim a world record, but James described the effort as 'pretty heroic' nonetheless. For further details on this story, click here and here or, for my photographs, click here and here.
As for future television projects, who knows? The viewing figures for 'Railway Walks' on both BBC4 and BBC2 were excellent, so it is possible that, one day, a second series will be commissioned. If this happens, then I may be involved again – after all, there are few individuals at large who have been daft enough, like me, to devote themselves for decades to the cause of Britain's lost railways. In addition, a look at the TV schedules in any month shows that there is still plenty of interest in Britain's railways, and new angles on them. For example, Michael Portillo has good cause to be thankful for his interest in railways – just look at all the railway programmes that he has fronted in the last few years!
If you missed 'Railway Walks' completely, the link here provides an outline of the series, together with access to the BBC iPlayer when the programmes are available to watch online.
Both 'Along These Lines' and 'Railway Walks' looked at the legacy of old railways both in the south of England, and across the UK as a whole. They also examined local landscapes, and social and economic history, as well as telling the story of each railway's construction and subsequent loss.
Life & Everything
I have come to the conclusion that God never intended me to be rich. You can't take it with you, so what's the point? 'Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure' got it right when Rufus said, 'Be excellent to one another'. The world would be a better place if we could manage to do that more often.